Updated on Apr 8, 2022
Workplace productivity may seem like a simple enough concept on the surface—it’s getting stuff done at your business, right? Well, sometimes it’s not quite that clear-cut. A few more factors to consider enable you to understand your workplace’s productivity and find ways to impact it positively.
To help you do so, we’re going to look at what workplace productivity is, why and how you should measure it, how you can increase workplace productivity, and some factors that can lead to inefficiency.
What is Workplace Productivity?
Standard definitions of workplace productivity tend to focus on how much work is completed at a specific place (your office) within a particular time frame. This can be quantified by looking at the output per hour worked or the output per worker over a set amount of time.
However, both of these metrics are a little limiting to get to the bottom of your workplace’s productivity. You need to look at the type of work being done as well. It’s not simply about outputting as much as possible, but rather about ensuring the right work is achieved by employees who bring their full energy and unique experience to the table.
Workplace productivity is, simply put, getting your business’s tasks done efficiently in the shortest time span possible.
Why Should you Measure Workplace Productivity?
Measuring productivity allows you to avoid some of the pitfalls of inefficiency while taking advantage of the benefits, and as with any metric in your company, it ultimately enables you to make sounder business decisions.
First, low or inefficient workplace productivity means that work isn’t getting done, and measuring it lets you know this! What’s more, if employees feel like they aren’t being meaningfully productive—and are instead doing “busy work” such as sitting in pointless meetings—it can seriously impact morale, which can lead to low employee retention or staff burnout.
Furthermore, measuring productivity indicates work capacity, which dictates your ability to take on new clients and accounts or increase production depending on your company. Do you need more staff to grow or could you be doing more with what you already have?
Improved- or high-workplace productivity, on the other hand, is about making the most of the resources you already have, which can boost your business without any extra investment. What’s more, employees engaged in meaningful work means better morale and all the benefits that come with it.
By the same logic, measuring productivity also allows you to make investment decisions in other areas. For example, suppose your overall productivity is slipping, but you know you have an incredible team doing excellent work. In that case, it might indicate that your equipment needs an upgrade – perhaps those terminals are a bit out of date, or your communication software is a little old-fashioned.
Similarly, it can help you identify operational inefficiencies. These could be internal, such as poor communication channels between departments and functional silos. They could also be external, such as breakdowns in the customer lifecycle through poor lead follow-up or customer service.
Measuring productivity lets you know how your business is running and enables you to make informed decisions about investment, staff, operations, and more. So the question now is, how do you measure productivity in the workplace?
How to measure workplace productivity
Measuring productivity will differ from company to company, with a variety of methods that are better suited to specific industries, operational methods, and workflows. That said, several general categories are commonly used by companies to measure productivity, so let’s take a look.
Measuring by Revenues
The first, and to many people most important, metric is simply looking at company profits – is the business making money, and is the amount of money increasing? If yes, productivity is improving too, right?
In very simplistic terms, this can be used but generally needs to be set against other measures to give a clear view of actual productivity. Furthermore, focussing purely on profits made can lead to an oversight on different factors (such as employee retention), which will hurt a business in the long run.
Time Taken to Complete a Task
Another standard method for measuring workplace productivity is the time it takes to complete a task. This is often done through time tracking software, often online now that many workers have gone remote.
However, simple time tracking may measure your time/work ratio, but not the quality of that output. Furthermore, time tracking has many negative connotations so it must be handled carefully if being introduced to a team.
Is the Task Done?
Another relatively simple way to measure productivity in the workplace is just looking at whether the work is being done. This method is less concerned about the time taken on a task and more about the final outcome being realized.
This measure can be hard to implement with larger or longer-term projects, so a common method is to break them down into smaller tasks with specific deadlines that can be more easily measured.
Hands-on Employee Monitoring
A more qualitative approach to workplace productivity than simply looking at timesheets is regularly monitoring employee progress and comparing this to work done in a given time frame. This is most commonly done through a daily team meeting or one-on-one check-ins where employees can discuss new developments, workflow, or issues they have.
This method takes a more person-centric approach and allows for fast and agile adjustment of workloads, goals, and operational methods to ensure your team is working as efficiently as possible.
Another more qualitative approach to measuring productivity is through the use of feedback and peer assessment. This works best for small teams who work together closely. They give feedback on each other’s performance, generally privately to a supervisor or anonymously.
These peer assessments are then used to assess each employee’s productivity. As can probably be expected, implementing this type of productivity measure requires a high level of communication as well as a level of comfort in their own roles and those of their peers.
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Labor Time vs Products Made
On the other hand, there is an entirely quantitative approach favored by some companies, especially those in manufacturing. It involves comparing total labor time (input) with the number of goods produced (output).
You simply divide the output by the input and use the resulting ratio as your measure of productivity. It’s simple and data-driven, but as with some of the other quant methods, can overlook important factors in workplace productivity.
While labor/product ratios may work in manufacturing, companies offering services more commonly use customer feedback to measure productivity. This is one that almost everyone will have come across at some point – from smiley-face buttons at the airport to end-of-call satisfaction surveys.
The data taken from these surveys can be used to measure how effective any given service is being rendered. For example, if a commercial cleaning company is hired for an office and gets the work done in 2 hours with a high satisfaction rating from the customer, it is more productive than if they had done it in 45 minutes with a low-satisfaction rating. Simply measuring time to complete a task would not show this.
So, with the importance of measuring productivity clearly, and some methods on how to do so, let’s take a look at some ways to increase the efficiency of productivity in the workplace.
How to Increase Workplace Efficiency and Productivity
Productivity is ticking off the most important tasks as efficiently as possible, so ask yourself, what is important? With that clear, here are 11 proven techniques to improve workplace productivity.
Focus on one thing at a time
While people once aspired to be the best multitaskers possible, we increasingly realize that focusing on core tasks will actually contribute more to workplace productivity. Trying to do too much at the same time can stretch your resources too thin and lead to tasks being done poorly or inefficiently.
Encourage employees to focus on one task at a time so as to do that one task well.
Factor in breaks
Being productive doesn’t mean working every minute of every day. Employees will likely be far more efficient when given time and space to relax. Trying to make people work too hard will lead to fatigue, burnout, and ultimately less productivity.
Try to refocus how you measure work at your business. Move away from tracking how much time a person is working to whether or not important tasks are being done. It’s still valuable to see how that time is used, but if people are achieving your business goals, then things are moving in the right direction.
As mentioned, it is still important to analyze how time is used in your business, which can be done in a number of ways, such as tracking tasks completed per day or time per task. There is plenty of software that will allow employees to track their time, and the right app or platform for you will depend on your company.
It’s your job to take those time-tracking metrics and make adjustments accordingly. For example, if a relatively simple task is taking way longer than expected, it’s important to find out why. You might discover an employee lacks the right tools or training for the job—fixing this will mean the task can be completed more quickly and boost employee confidence.
Set realistic deadlines and stick to them
Nothing demotivates people quite like facing an impossible task. So, of course, you should always have deadlines, but make sure they are realistic and achievable. Otherwise, people are liable to give up before they’ve even begun.
Sticking to those deadlines is also very important since if they are too soft, they become worthless. Employees will feel like they have worked hard to achieve something that ultimately didn’t matter. Hard deadlines can also help with our next tip, which is leaving perfectionism behind.
Perfectionism is counterproductive
There will always be a better-designed poster or cleaner-looking website. However, several factors limit employees, and at the end of the day, there isn’t even such a thing as “perfect.” Therefore, trying to aim for the “ideal” can be counterproductive, as employees keep working on something that is plenty good enough instead of moving on to other tasks, subsequently reducing workplace productivity.
Employees and managers can get so caught up in trying to make something perfect that the task at hand ends up incomplete!
Having some kind of physical activity in your day is an essential part of staying healthy, motivated, and focused at work. Within your workplace, this could mean encouraging employees to move about or stretch during breaks.
To facilitate this and ensure people aren’t stuck at their desks, it is important to provide an area that employees can use in this way. This could be a large break room, but ideally would be an outdoor/green space.
Could that meeting be an email?
An unnecessary meeting can be counterproductive and ultimately reduce workplace productivity since it makes employees feel like they are doing meaningless work. Think hard about if you actually need a meeting, or whether the same results could be accomplished with an email, call, or one-on-one chat.
Break your day into blocks
Using time cycles, which break each day into smaller blocks of work and rest, can help keep employees motivated and on track. These cycles mean that there is a clear time limit on each task, resulting in putting the maximum amount of energy possible into a task without the risk of burning out, with everyone aware there is a break at the end.
Find a rhythm that works for you and encourage employees to do the same. It’s important to be flexible so as to allow for each person to find their own flow.
Make your space comfortable
This advice is for you, all your employees, and the entire office space. We spend a lot of time at work, and making the office an enjoyable place to be, in terms of ambiance and comfort, can make a huge difference to workplace productivity.
Plants are a great option to spruce up any office and help boost mood and morale at the same time. That said, it’s important to talk to your team about what they want as well as giving employees the freedom to make their space their own.
Delegate and encourage proactiveness
A productive workplace isn’t possible without proper delegation. Choose the right people for the right job, and then let them loose on it. If every decision has to pass through you, then the entire business will be bottlenecked, and work will seriously suffer.
Similarly, employees should be encouraged to be proactive in their roles. If they see an opportunity for improvement or space for development, they should have the confidence and comfort to pursue it and communicate it to you.
Feedback is an important part of workplace productivity, and it should run both ways. First, you should set aside the time and resources needed to encourage and motivate your employees in their work. This means giving valuable feedback for positive reinforcement.
Second, you should establish channels for employees to give you feedback. This helps create a happy and more balanced workplace, which in turn improves productivity. It also helps give people some control over the direction of their work, which is vital for individual wellbeing.
Ditch the 9-5 life
Not everyone does their best work during traditional hours. Some people might be more alert and creative from 5AM to 2PM. Others might do well from noon to 8 PM. Increasing workplace productivity is about recognizing that people work best during different times. Build options for employees to work during times when they are at their peak and can focus. When it’s their off-hours, encourage them to fully disconnect from work.
Invest in better technology
Getting rid of dead time at work is a surefire way to increase productivity. If you have developers or designers sitting idle while they watch for their technology to save files, render documents, etc. – you’re losing daylight hours that could be spent increasing productivity. People can’t be productive if their technology is slowing them down. Yes, new computers can be expensive, but you’re wasting a lot more time in labor costs if someone can’t work more efficiently.
When people work together, good things happen. One of those good things is increased productivity. Everyone has their own unique skill sets, so a project will be completed faster when they can be paired with someone else that augments their skill set. Introducing a team chat feature like Spike Groups is another way to upgrade the team experience at your business. It allows teams to quickly chat, share files, and jump on video calls.
What Leads Workers to Be Inefficient?
All our points so far have focused on ways to positively impact workplace productivity, but it’s also worth looking out for some of the major issues that can lead to workplace inefficiency. We’ve identified two of the main ones below, as well as some of the ways to beat them!
Distractions and Interruptions
Workplaces are inherently distracting places, with hustle and bustle a normal part of most peoples’ days. On top of this, when you’re in the office, there will no doubt be people dropping in for quick updates or even just a chat.
Add to this the slew of notifications employees receive from all their work-based apps, and it’s a surprise anybody gets anything done at all.
Resolving this involves consolidating your tasks and your tools. To bring together tasks, create blocks of work—some blocks that contain small tasks and other blocks that are for more complex tasks, aka “deep work”. Once you’ve blocked out the latter, ensure everyone knows not to interrupt you during this time and find a distraction-free space, such as an isolated office.
The same method should be encouraged among all employees, where practical, so they can be more productive in their own work.
Similarly, tools should be consolidated to reduce the “bings” and “beeps” of a dozen different apps. A platform such as Spike brings together all the productivity tools you need, including Conversational Email, Calendar, Tasks and To-Dos, Video Calls, and more. This means no need to switch between apps and far fewer distractions to pull focus from your work.
Another major issue that can lead to workplace inefficiency is poor communication. This could be between you and your employees, between individual team members, or between your staff and clients. If any channel fails, then workplace productivity suffers.
Clear communication begins by creating a workplace environment where people feel that they are actually able to communicate with one another. Beyond this, you should focus on having the right tools for the job. Of course, precisely what you need will depend on your work, but there are a few essentials that will almost certainly help.
Spike, for example, offers Conversational Email, which cuts away the clutter of signatures and headers for cleaner emails and more effective communication. Pair this with the in-built Video and Voice Calls and Voice Messages, and you have all the communication tools you need in a single platform.
There are many potential causes of workplace inefficiency, but a couple of major ones to look out for are distractions and interruptions, such as software notifications and poor communication, whether between you and your employees, between individual team members or between staff and clients.
There are many reasons to measure workplace productivity, such as indicating where new investment should be made; gauging employee effectiveness and morale; highlighting operational changes; and highlighting practical changes, such as hardware and software.
The way you measure workplace productivity will depend on the industry you work in and the specific workflows of your company. That said, some of the most common broad measures are:
- Through profit made
- The time taken to complete tasks (and projects)
- Whether a task/project is completed
- Employee monitoring
- Employee feedback
- Labor time/production ratio (for manufacturing)
- Customer satisfaction (for service industries)
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